Today my older daughter, who lives in a group home, had an appointment for a haircut. However about 2 hours before the appointment her hairdresser called and said her appointments today were running behind and she asked if we could come next week. So we decided to have lunch together and then go to the History Center. Below is the beautiful autumn view that greeted us.
In the exhibit we found a chronology of the Hmong people and their culture. The Hmong culture goes back at least 6000 years.
Much to my amazement I learned that in the early 1960s the CIA established a huge military base in present day Laos and it was staffed primarily by Hmong soldiers and staff. This is part of what is called the Secret War, and was authorized by President Kennedy as a way to fight back against Communist governments. Indeed as far as I'm concerned, it was a Secret War.
Below is a model. I am sorry that the picture is not very good. There was no way I could avoid the reflection of the overhead lights.
Surrounding this exhibit area are objects associated with Hmong military service. Below, for example, is a beret.
When the U.S. left South Asia the Hmong were in a bad position with the assuming Communist governments in Laos and Viet Nam and needed to flee the area. Their status obviously met the qualification of refugee in U.S law.
But first came the paperwork. The display below shows the type of documents that had to be completed.
The Hmong used oral language to keep their culture alive, along with what are called story cloths. The exhibit has a display of one that is very large.
Below are some photos that show details from this story cloth
And this portion of the story cloth makes note that people did leave
The exhibit explains that each person who was leaving a refugee camp was given a small plastic box in which to put things they wished to bring with them to the United States. These varied from the T-shirt shown below
to a very beautiful silver necklace.
What did the Hmong think of Minnesota? On one sign at the exhibit I found this statement: St Paul could have been the moon. The language, the climate, the plants, the money, the values, the technology the house -- nothing made sense.
There were many bumps in the road. For example, housing was difficult to find because many landlords required a two year rental history. The arriving Hmong wondered how they could do this when they had been living in a refugee camp. Rules such as this had to modified.
Part of the exhibit moved us too to a Home exhibit. The History Center has an exhibit about a house at 402 Hopkins that has been the home for succeeding groups of immigrants and refugees. First were Germans, then Italians, and then Hmong in this house. The Hmong living room proved to be very simple in its design.
And on one wall is the example of a beautiful tapestry.
Now about 40% of the students in the Saint Paul schools are Hmong kids. Sometimes, for example when shopping in Target, I will hear a child say "Mom" with the exact same intonation that my kids used when they were little.
Hmong have moved into all kinds of professions and also into elected positions with local and state government.
The ending of the exhibit has bowls of plastic vegetables and fruits labeled with bar codes. When one places the bar code on the reader a nearby monitor plays a video that shows how the fruit or vegetable is used in Hmong cooking.